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´╗┐Title: Jingle in the Jungle
Author: Giunta, Aldo
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jingle in the Jungle" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         jingle in the jungle

                            BY ALDO GIUNTA

                 _When even the Fight Commission is in
               on the plot, and everyone knows that the
                "fix" is on, when no one will help him,
               what can a man do--except help himself?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, June 1957.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Charlie Jingle walked into the long room with the long table and long
Commissioners' faces in it. He went to a chair at the head of the
table, and sat down, a small man in loose, seedy clothing looking
rather lost in a high-backed chair with a regal crest carved in the
wood.

"You," asked one of the Commissioners, "are Charles Jingle?"

Charlie nodded his head, a small nod from a small man sitting in a big
man's chair.

"You are aware of course ..." began the Commissioner, but Charlie
Jingle waved his fingers and cut him off.

"Sure, sure, let's can the bunko and get down to cases."

"You have been summoned here ..." began the same Commissioner, and
Charlie Jingle waved his fingers again.

"But I ain't gonna anyway," said Charlie Jingle. The Commissioners
stirred, cleared their throats, slid their bottoms with unease on their
chairs.

"You understand," said the Commissioner, "that your license may be
revoked if you insist on being uncooperative?"

"Sure," said Charlie Jingle. "I understand."

A bulky man, who had been standing at a window with his back to the
seated members of the Commission while they talked with Charlie, turned
to face them. A man with a heavy, grey face that had no humor in it.
Charlie Jingle watched him slowly cross to the table and recognized him
as Commissioner Jergen, head of the Fight Commission.

"Jingle," said the man in a dry voice, "I'm going to make an example
of you if you don't come across. I'm going to smear your name from
coast to coast. I'm going to blackball you so hard you won't get a job
anyplace, at anything! Get the message?"

Charlie Jingle got up from his chair and walked to the door. "This the
way out?" he asked.

"Hold on!" roared Commissioner Jergen, and Charlie Jingle stopped with
his hand on the knob, looking back with polite inquisitiveness at him.

"You goddam people think you can pull quick deals on the Public and on
the Fight Commission. I'm here to prove you can't!"

Charlie Jingle laughed.

"You're here to make a big noise, and scare all the scrawny citizens
into a confession, Jergen. Don't kid me!"

"I suppose you've got too many contacts to be frightened?"

"Contacts? No, I don't have a single damn contact. All I got is my two
hands, and you already told me I ain't gonna be able to make a livin'
with them, so why should I stick around here anymore?"

Commissioner Jergen pulled a chair forward.

"Siddown, Charlie. Let's talk like reasonable men," he said. Charlie
Jingle searched his face for a lie or a trick. Finding none, he went
back to the table and sat down.

The Commissioner waited a moment, and then said earnestly:

"Listen, Jingle. Seventy years ago this country outlawed
prize-fighting. It was barbarous, they said. Men shouldn't fight men.
Men shouldn't capitalize on other men as if they were animals. Okay.
They changed it. Now we got the Pug-Factories. But we also have the
same thing that went on before. We have the grifters and the shysters
and the fixers operating at full tilt all over the place. There's a few
honest guys in the game. I hear you're one of them. All we want is to
nail the crooks! We want to bust the Fix Syndicate wide open, get me?
Now, if you love the game the way I hear you do--not for the money, but
for the smell and the excitement--why won't you help us bust them wide?"

Charlie Jingle shook his head.

"You got it wrong, Jergen. I know about the fixers. But I never
consorted with them. If I did, I could've retired a rich man a long
time ago."

"Then how about that Saturday night fiasco at the Golum Auditorium? You
call that a straight fight?"

Charlie Jingle shrugged his shoulders.

"All I know is I sent my boy in there. He's a Tank, okay. He's up
against the newest fighting machine invented. Okay. He drops him.
I'm as much surprised as you. All the odds read against me. I got a
rebuilt Tank in the ring. But he flattens one of the flashiest pugs
in the business. Sure, I admit, it looks suspicious. Fifteen minutes
after the upset, one of the biggest fixers in the game walks into my
boy's dressing-room ... But don't forget, I'm the best trainer in the
business. I take a chunk of worn out fighting machine and make it over
into something that buys me bread and coffee. So maybe I create a
freak. How do I know? Maybe I twisted a wire wrong, and my Tank's the
toughest thing punching."

"You're trying to tell me that fight was on the level, is that it?"

"So far as I'm concerned, it's level. So far as you're concerned...."
Charlie Jingle shrugged.

"How is it you happened to have your boy handy when the other fighter
couldn't go on?" asked the Commissioner.

"I got my stable a block away from the arena. When I heard about Kid
Congo getting smashed up in an auto accident, I called the arena.
Before the fight, I had twelve cents in my pocket, a dime of which
I used to call the arena. They told me 'Sure, bring him down quick,
Charlie'. So there I was...."

"So they put your Tank in against the Contender. Just like that?"

Jingle snapped his fingers.

"Like that."

"And Harry Belok had nothing to do with the upset?"

"Ask Harry Belok."

"Why did he come to see you when the fight was over?"

Charlie Jingle laughed.

"He come to pay me off...."

The Commissioner looked at a sheet of paper on the table in front of
him.

"Nineteen thousand seven hundred and thirty two dollars worth of
pay-off?"

Charlie Jingle nodded.

"And thirteen cents. You got the thirteen cents down?"

"I've got the thirteen cents down. But how come he pays off so much
money to somebody's completely broke, Charlie-boy?"

"Easy," said Charlie Jingle. "The Tank's end of the purse is four
hundred bucks, win or lose. Before the fight, I bet the Tank's end
against Harry, at house odds. You figure it up, and see if it don't
figure out to the penny."

Charlie watched one of the Commissioners scribble quick numbers on a
piece of blank paper. In a moment the man looked up, and handed the
sheet across to Commissioner Jergen. Jergen looked at it quickly and
grunted.

"Okay?" asked Charlie Jingle.

"Okay," growled Jergen.

"When we fight the Champ, I'll send a couple tickets around free. See
ya'...." Charlie Jingle went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charlie Jingle came out of the underground tubes and walked down
a block of chipped brick and colored plastic buildings, past
picket fences and an empty street. He looked at the street, the
pavement--dark, quiet, uncluttered by garbage, devoid of kids. On the
roofs of the buildings was a jungle of neatly bent, squarely twisted,
staunchly mounted aerials. The kids were under them, behind the picket
fences, watching five-foot-square screens that flashed stories and news
and the life histories of ring heroes like himself. A nice, clean-cut,
handsome actor would act the part of Charlie Jingle, his fights, loves
and disappointments, all ending up in one glorious, stirring message.
Charlie Jingle made it. From rags to riches in a single swipe.... So
can _you_.

He stopped in front of Hannigan's Gym, looked up and down the street,
and cautiously spat into the gutter. Then he went past the swinging
doors into the building's interior.

Inside the door, he breathed deep the stale smell of oil and leather
that permeated the atmosphere. Opening his eyes, he looked into the
flat, grinning face of Emil McPhay. McPhay had been chalking schedules
on a blackboard when he spotted the rapt expression of Charlie Jingle's
face.

"As I live and panhandle!" exclaimed McPhay, his eyes rolling in their
fat sockets.

"Anybody to see me, Emil?"

"Well you know as well as me somebody is, Charlie. The lovin'
picture-makin' people 're here. Got a whole staff wit 'em." He leaned
close, rolling his eyes shyly. "You gonna give 'em the story of yer
bloody life, Charlie?"

Charlie strode toward his shop at the back of the gym.

"Not unless they make me lead man. And _you_ the leading lady!"

He went past a row of smoked-glass doors to the last one with C.
JINGLE, TRAINER printed on it, opened it, and went in. As Emil McPhay
had said, the room was mobbed with smoking, suntanned Californians. An
elegant-looking man rushed forward and jerked his hand up and down.

"Glad ... so glad.... Pictures.... Hope.... Contract.... Of course.
Your boy.... Mister Jingle.... Famous...."

Nobody had called Charlie Jingle mister for ten years. In one night,
he'd graduated from flop to mister. He rubbed his fingers together,
feeling the sweat on them. His eyes took in the walls painted their
flat, drying green, the racks of tools on them, the pictures of
great fighting machines all over them, the electrical diagrams, the
Reflex-Analyses Patterns mapped out next to each one. Then he lowered
his eyes to take in the grinning, smooth-faced men around him, doing
nervous things with their faces and hands. He looked at the man in
front of him, his mouth flapping open and closed, contorting this way
and that, and suddenly Charlie shut his eyes tight, drew in a blast of
air, screwed his mouth open, and yelled "Shaddap!" good and loud.

There was stunned silence. Charlie looked around at them, at their
poised, waiting faces.

"Scram!" he yelled, and jerked his finger to the door.

Slowly, the suntanned Californians drifted out of the room, watching
him closely lest he maul them or loose another violation of the success
story at them. One man broke the spell.

"Of course, Mister Jingle, one's life history is certainly something
to be treasured. Not to be treated lightly. But I assure you we--my
company, that is--we will make certain that we adhere to the facts, in
our fashion. There will be no unnec--"

Charlie Jingle grabbed the man's jacket-front with his left hand, his
trouser-seat with the other, and, taking advantage of the man's total
unpreparedness, threw him bodily out of the room, in the same motion
kicking the door shut so hard, the glass cracked and a piece jumped out
of the upper left hand corner.

Then Charlie Jingle stormed into his shop, where Tanker Bell awaited
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Tanker saw Charlie come into the room fuming mad, he shut off the
reflex-machine and turned to watch him. Charlie Jingle paced back and
forth in the room, in the small space between work-bench and wall.
Suddenly he stopped, spun savagely to face Tanker. "Well? What the hell
you lookin' at?"

Tanker Bell grinned. "You, Charlie. I like to watch you when you're
mad."

"You do, eh?"

Tanker watched the rage build up to a good healthy flush on Charlie's
skin.

"Jeez," Tanker jibed, "you look as red as those beets they sell over in
the Old-Methods Market."

"Listen you! Just because you dropped that flashy character last night.
Don't let it go to your head! You get me sore, by God, I'll have you
piled up in the yard along with yesterday's rusty pugs!"

Tanker laughed.

Charlie Jingle glared at the Tanker a moment, drew a deep breath,
snorted it out, and paced twice. Then he faced the Tanker again.

"Sorry, kid. They got me goin' today. First the fight commission. Then
these soap-peddlers from Hollywood. Sorry I blew off."

"How'd it go with the Commission?"

"Okay, okay. Jergen knows about me. He's just hungry for a bust, you
know? Wants to nail the Fixers."

The Tanker took a step toward Charlie.

"The Champ call?" he asked, voice trembling. Charlie shook his head in
the negative.

"Why don't you sucker him, Charlie? Force his hand!"

"You want a bout with the Champ?"

"Sure! Don't you?"

Charlie sat down on the work-bench and pulled the Tanker down next to
him.

"Listen, Tank. Last night was a freak, you understand? Something
happened last night, I don't know what. But you ain't the boy to fight
the Champ--My God, boy, you're older than me!"

Tanker Bell looked at Charlie, his face puckering like a child's.

"No, now wait. Lemme make it clear, Tank," said Charlie Jingle softly.
"You'n me been together fourteen years. We've fought in some pretty
ancient Tank-towns. We've fought young and old alike, and you know as
well as me that it was always an even toss whether or not you would get
knocked cold. We're mediocrities, Kid. When I bought you, you'd already
seen your best days. Am I right?" Tanker Bell nodded, his head down on
his chest.

"Look, Tanker, I ain't tryin' to hurt you. I just don't wanna see you
get killed!"

"Well who said anything about gettin' killed, for God's sake!" bawled
the Tanker.

"Look at it this way. You've been knocked to pieces a dozen times, and
I've gone to work and put you back together a dozen times. I've twisted
your wires, re-shaped your reflex plan, doubled your flexibility and
your punch-power, co-ordinated and re-co-ordinated you and re-analyzed
your nervous-pattern until I've exhausted every possible combination.
You're a fighting machine, and a good one, kid. But machines grow old.
They get outdated, like me. I'm a Mechanical Engineer. Okay! There's
lots of new stuff I don't know that these college kids know. What
happens to them? They go to work for Pugilists Inc., inventing new
machines with new systems. They got systems that I never dreamed of. Do
you know that?"

"Well what's that got to do with me fightin' the Champ, for God's sake?"

"Everything! They put machines in the ring now that are worth Five
Hundred Thousand dollars! They're almost indestructible!"

"How come that punk I fought last night wasn't so indestructible, then?
How come about that, Charlie?"

"I dunno, I dunno. Somethin' musta gone wrong. Maybe he shorted out."

"Or _maybe_ for once you hit the _right_ combination, how about that,
Charlie? Maybe I'm real ripe, now, after all these years of tankin'
around!"

"But Tanker! Use your head! The Champ's brand new, spankin' young. He's
the newest-styled fighting machine in existence. What chance you think
we stand against that?"

"Listen. I fought that bum last night with ease, you know that? There I
was, just glidin' around him, punchin' him at will--"

"Maybe it was an accident! Maybe somethin' went wrong with his system
last night...."

"And maybe I dropped him on the square, too...."

"OKAY!" shouted Charlie Jingle in desperation. "Maybe you did. And
maybe, if you go in against the Champ, maybe he'll kill you! Maybe
he'll smash you so hard I won't be able to put you together again. You
wanna take that chance? Or you wanna settle down nice and quiet in some
Pug factory, supervisin' young fighters?"

"Naw!" yelled the Tanker. "I wanna take that chance! I want you to get
me a fight with the Champ!"

"Are you dumb, or what? Don't you know they never come back?"

"All I know is this," began the Tanker. "Fourteen years we bin
together. Fourteen years you stuck it out and starved it out, workin'
with scraps from a junk-heap, with stumble-bums like me who've seen
their day. There was times when you went hungry because the junk-heap
needed oil, or wiring, or a pattern-analysis, or parts. Now you got
something! Now you can be on top! You know damn well you don't want
any part of that Hollywood fiasco. You got a crack at _big_ money. You
gonna let it go by-the-by because you're afraid a pile of wires might
get killed? Naw! We fight, and that's the way it stacks!"

"You mean it, don't you, Tanker?"

The Tanker said nothing.

Charlie Jingle slowly rose, tired in his bones, tired in his joints.
"Okay. I'll arrange it. But don't blame me if--"

"I won't," said Tanker Bell tightly, and Charlie went out. In the hall,
the Hollywood people were still waiting for him. Charlie shouldered
past them with a half-spring to his step.

       *       *       *       *       *

He sat in the waiting-room of the offices of Pugilists, Inc., on a
plush powder-blue lounge chair chewing gum languidly. From time to time
he shot a glance at the secretary sitting inside a totally enclosed
desk, operating a Mento-Writer Machine, the electrical contact-buttons
fixed to her temples. He watched in sleepy fascination as, every so
often, she leaned over and pushed the button marked _corrector_, and
there would follow an electrical hiss as the tape on the machine slid
back, eliminating wrongly-formed thoughts.

Charlie knew that somewhere in the room there was machinery observing
him, measuring his pulse, emotional balance, probable intelligence,
habits, and massing and digesting the general information so that
Pugilists, Inc., would know what kind of man they were dealing with,
and what approach would be best.

Somewhere in this building another machine was probably purring,
feeding information from memory-banks, relating all known facts and
incidents regarding Charlie Jingle, his birth, environment, social
and political connections, moral status, business ethics, and bank
account.... Not that Charlie Jingle was so important to them, this he
knew. But Pugilists, Inc., kept records and histories of every and any
individual having even the remotest connection with the fight game.

As Charlie Jingle sat there a smile twitched across his face. Let them
figure _that_ out, he thought, and then sank into a reverie. Over in
the other part of the room, across the prairie of rug, the secretary
Mento wrote efficiently, the machine going ZZZ CLK SSHHHH CLK CLK ZZZZ,
hypnotic in it's well-oiled quietness.

"Jingle?"

Charlie Jingle looked across the room to the secretary. "What?" he
asked.

"Would you go in please, Mister Jingle?"

Charlie followed the direction of the girl's gesture to a panel in
the wall. He got up and started to cross suspiciously toward it. As
he slowed down, nearing it, he looked back at her, and she smiled and
encouraged him on sympathetically toward the doorless wall. Just as
Charlie thought _It'd be funny if I break my nose on that goddam
wall_ ... the panel swung in quietly.

Charlie walked through it into a room. In it there was another veldt of
rug, at the far end of which was a bar, a lounge chair, a tremendous
sofa, and a low, knee-high table. The walls were decorated with modern
paintings in a colorful, tasteful, executive way. Standing near the
knee-high table were three men, one distinguished looking, the other
two looking as if they'd stepped out of a Young Collegiate Magazine ad.

The elegant one crossed to Charlie, his face a big, pleasant,
well-groomed smile, hand extended.

"Allow me, Mister Jingle. I'm Kort Gassel. These two gentlemen are
Jerome Rupp and Eugene White. Would you like a drink, Mister Jingle?"

Charlie Jingle shook their hands and sat down, crossing his legs
comfortably.

"You got gin, Mister ahhh--"

"Gassel," said Kort Gassel, and crossed the three feet to the bar.
"Soda?" he asked.

"Straight," said Charlie Jingle, and watched the other two sit down
slowly as Gassel came back with his drink.

"That's quite a drink. I know few men who enjoy straight gin, Mister
Jingle. It always comes as a surprise when I--"

"You gonna give us the fight, Mister Gassel?" interrupted Charlie.

"The fight? You mean with Iron-Man Pugg?"

"That's right, with Iron-Man Pugg."

"Well Mister Jingle. Since you put the matter so straightforwardly.
Pugilists Incorporated only owns a small block of stock in Iron-Man
Pugg, as you know. Mister Rupp and Mister White here represent the
other interests involved. As you must know, Pugilists Incorporated is a
large-scale business, designed to function on a large-scale basis. Now,
we, the stockholders in Iron-Man Pugg, have thought this thing out.
We've come to the conclusion that it would rather--well, embarrass the
Company to agree to such a match as you propose."

"So you won't fight?"

"No, no, Mister Jingle, don't jump to hasty conclusions. I'm trying
to explain something to you. It's not simply a matter of matching
your--ah--boy against ours. But we _are_ concerned with the overall
effect of such a bout. Frankly, our reputation as a manufacturing
concern is more important to us than the outcome of any single bout--"

"Whadda you say you get to the point?"

"Certainly. Tanker Bell, as we understand it, has a fighting history
of forty-seven years. Now, I'm afraid we'd be made a laughing-stock if
Tanker Bell were set into motion against one of our products."

"Especially if he won, is that it?"

"Particularly then. But we rest secure in the fact that that outcome is
highly improbable, not to state impossible."

Charlie Jingle sipped his gin, looking from one face to the other.

"So?" he asked, anticipating what was about to come.

"Suppose, Mister Jingle, you were offered a price for Tanker Bell,
price far in excess of his actual worth. A price big enough to even
make it possible for you to perhaps buy a second-rate fighter in good
second-class condition."

Charlie Jingle closed his eyes and tapped his foot with horny,
grease-monkey fingers. In a moment he opened them and slowly took in
the three representatives of the champ, Iron-Man Pugg.

"Lemme get this straight. You want me to sell Tanker for much more than
he's worth because you'd be humiliated at having to put one of your
products in the same ring with him?"

"Exactly," said Kort Gassel.

"But you're sure your boy'd whip him in the ring?"

"Well obviously we all know the knockout victory he scored over the
Contender was an accident."

Charlie Jingle nodded.

"_We_ all know it. But there's one guy in the world who don't. You know
who? Tanker Bell himself."

Kort Gassel laughed.

"A robot, Mister Jingle? Surely you must be--"

Charlie Jingle shook his head.

"Can't do it, boys. I gotta consider the Tanker. You see, Mister
Gassel, Tanker thinks he could take your boy. And not only does he
wanna take him, but he won't take no for an answer!"

"Listen, Jingle, is this some kind of joke? What are you holding out
for? A price? When I said I'd make it worth your--"

Charlie Jingle shook his head, stubbornly and firmly.

"No price, Gassel. Just an agreement-contract."

"Listen, you fool, don't you realize what's at stake here? We're big
business! We can't afford to play around with lucky independents like
you!"

"Can't take any chances, huh?"

"Exactly that! Can't, and won't!"

"Wanna bet?"

"If you try to--"

Charlie Jingle got up from his seat.

"Gassel ... I've been in this racket so long I've got oil in my veins
instead of blood, and a Reflex-Pattern Analysis for a brain. I know
every angle there is to know. If I want a fight, I'll get one. So
don't go try putting your big business pressure on me. I'm too old for
college-boy antics."

Kort Gassel stared at him for a long, hostile moment. Then his face
broke into a smile.

"My friend, do you know what you're bucking? These are the offices of
Pugilists Incorporated you're in. Don't you realize what that means?"

"Sure," said Charlie Jingle. "It means that if Tanker Bell whips
Iron-Man Pugg, Charlie Jingle will one day have as big a factory and as
many orders for Fighting-Machines as Pug, Inc...."

Charlie Jingle crossed the desert of rug toward the exit-panel.

"See you at Ring-side, Kids." And he went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mischa Hannigan, owner and proprietor of Hannigan's Jungle, watched
from his tiered office as Hammerhead Johnny put Tanker Bell through his
paces in the ring. His eyes travelled from the laboring fighters in the
ring to the crowd of spectators standing and sitting around, watching
the Tank work. He was smooth and fast, without a kink, stabbing light
quick jabs and those murderous body-rights that had stopped the
Contender, breaking, the press had said after the fight, the metal
rib-cage inside the Contender's body. Mischa Hannigan was happy.

After fifteen years of obscurity, his gym was fast-becoming popular
again. He had begun to charge admissions again to fans and promoters
who were eager to see the Tank at work. Once again during the afternoon
workouts there was the hum and roar of spectators, the slap-slur of
springing feet on the canvas followed by the booming of fists echoing
from rib-cage and jaw-bone structure. There was the smell of money in
his gym now, along with the smells of leather and oil.

The door behind him opened and Hannigan turned to Charlie Jingle.

"'Lo, Charlie."

"'Lo, Mish.... How's he look?"

"Terrific! If I didn't know him for twenty years, I'd swear he was
brand, spankin' new!"

Charlie Jingle grunted quietly and walked to the plate-glass window. He
looked down at them there in the white-roped square, watched the Tanker
attack with a quick-reflex attack, block a flurry of counter-blows,
weave under a right-hand smash to the head, and rock Hammerhead
Johnny to the ropes with a combination of shoulder-straight jabs to
the stomach and a cross-hand right to the chest. A hum of approval and
amazement went up from the spectators.

"Charlie!" shrieked Mischa Hannigan. "Charlie, did you see that? And
that Hammerhead Johnny is supposed to be the most stable Pug in the
business. They say he's got magnets in his feet, can't nobody break the
contact of--"

"Calm down, calm down, it's only practice."

"Practice he calls it! If Hammerhead could bust up the Tank, don't you
think he would?"

"Hammerhead's an old junkpot, Mich, and you know it!"

"Old he may be, Charlie, but junkpot he's not. Crafty as a damn
president of Pugs, Inc., he is, and everybody in the business knows it.
He ranks with the best sparrin' partners in the world, he does."

In the ring below something happened that drew a roar of uncontrollable
excitement from the crowd. It was over in a flash and nobody saw quite
how it happened. Hammerhead Johnny's body described a rigid, dark arc
in the air, hovered suspended a second in a completely horizontal
position, and then crashed with a hollow boom to the deck. The
Hammerhead did not move.

"BEGREE!" howled the delighted Mischa Hannigan. "BEGREE, he's knocked
him cold!" He began to dance around the room in a jig that shook his
frame with every jolt and pirouette. Charlie Jingle laughed.

"I'll be dammed! The Tank's really got it! He really has got it!"

"Oh, we're rich, we're rich, we're rich!" chanted the hysterical
Hannigan, dancing his macabre dance of the human puff-ball. There was
a knock at the door and Hannigan, still chanting, danced to the door
and opened it. The relaxed puffy flesh drew tight, his back stiffened.
Charlie Jingle peered around his girth to see who stood there.

Harry Belok, in a black Homburg and a blue pin-stripe suit, stepped
smiling into the room, twirling an ebony cane. He doffed his hat,
bowing slightly. Behind him a small man slid in next to the wall, his
whole body screwed up tightly into his neck. Hannigan, with a pale,
sickly smile, shut the door.

"If it ain't Harry Belok! Hello, Harry."

Harry Belok, smiling, looked straight at Charlie Jingle. "Whadayasay,
Hannigan! How's things, Charlie? Long time no see, hah?"

Charlie Jingle, with a tightness in his throat, mirrored the sick
expression of Mischa Hannigan. He smiled a smile so forced his flesh
stretched like a rubber mask out of control.

"Hello, Harry. What can I do for you?"

"'S this way, Charlie-mo. I just seen your boy work out. I just seen
him club the Hammerhead to the deck with the weirdest combination I
ever seen. It's somethin' new, he's got. Somethin' original! Know what
I mean?" Harry Belok stopped pacing, stopped twirling, to look at
Charlie Jingle. Charlie Jingle waited.

"Well--I hear around the grapevine that Pugs, Inc., don't relish
the thought of givin' your boy a crack at Iron-Man. Is that true,
Charlie-mo?"

Charlie Jingle shrugged.

"It don't mean a thing, Harry. You know that as well as anybody."

"Yeah, Charlie-mo. But you know as well as anybody that the Fight
Commission has got a rules book as thick as this room. If Pugs, Inc.,
really wants to, they'll find some kinda statute that disqualifies your
boy for the championship. Now, you don't want _that_ to happen, do you?"

Charlie Jingle began to feel the heat flushing up behind his eyeballs.
"What's the pitch, Harry?"

"I think maybe what you ought to do, Charlie-mo, is lemme buy a chunk
out of your boy. Then I guarantee you get the match."

"What makes you think I don't get the match anyway, Harry?"

Harry Belok turned, pointing his stick through the glass to the gym.

"Look down there. You see any reporters there? You see any cameras
shootin'?"

Charlie Jingle did not move, keeping his eyes unblinking on Belok.

"Okay. There's no reporters. No press build-up. Pugs, Inc., has put the
freeze on. So? What's the point?"

"The point," said Harry Belok, tapping Charlie Jingle's chest with the
white-tipped stick, "the point, is that you don't get no match from
Iron-Man unless you play ball with me!"

Charlie Jingle squinted at him through a cloud of brown-blue smoke.
"Can't do it, Harry-mo," he said quietly.

"You serious?"

"Dead serious," said Charlie Jingle.

"You get too serious, that's the way you liable to wind up," said Harry
Belok through his teeth. He turned and stomped toward the door and went
out. The little man against the wall slid out after him.

Charlie Jingle walked nonchalantly to the door, hooked his foot behind
it, and kicked it shut with a loud slam. Mischa Hannigan took a
handkerchief from his pocket, wiping his brow.

"You've gone crazy, Charlie. You've gone stark ravin' mad!"

Charlie Jingle whirled.

"All these years, Mish, I starved and sweated in tank-joints. All these
years I broke my back, and nobody lifted a finger except a choice one
or two. Now I've got a crack at somethin' good and everybody wants in.
Well I don't want them in! I want them to stay clear, and lemme go my
own way! Is that crazy?"

"But Charlie," moaned Mischa Hannigan. "You can't go laughin' at the
Fixer like that! Don't you have enough worries without gettin' killed?"

Charlie Jingle looked at him a blank moment and then laughed. He
turned, looking toward the ring below. The Tanker was on the Gym
floor, looking up. He waved. Charlie turned to Hannigan.

"Can you get me the Jawbreaker to spar with Tanker, Mish?"

Hannigan sank slowly into his leather chair behind the beat-up, rusting
metal desk. He rubbed a patch of rust with his thumb.

"Sure. Sure I can get the Jawbreaker. Can you get the match?"

"You just watch my dust," said Charlie, and went out.

Mischa Hannigan crinkled his nose. He began to feel his asthma coming
on.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Are you crazy, Jingle?" roared the apoplectic Commissioner Jergen. "I
can't get myself wrapped up in ring politics! I'm a fight commissioner,
not a goddam promoter!"

Charlie took a few steps toward the Commissioner, leveling a finger at
him in indictment.

"Now you lemme tell you somethin'. You run the fight game, but the only
thing you're interested in is your own goddam reputation. The only time
you ever get up off your fat keister is when somebody publicly pulls a
quick deal that looks phony. Then you roar up from the saddle and start
screaming 'foul'--_only_ because it makes you look bad if you don't!"

"I can have you cited for contempt--"

"I don't give one damn in hell what you can have me cited for! I
thought you were one square guy. But all you are is a bloody politician
like all the others! You're here to make sure the fight racket gets a
fair-deal. Well I'm getting the old freeze-away, and you still sit on
your keister and don't do a damned thing!"

"You damn midget!" croaked the Commissioner, and Charlie Jingle
whirled, fists cocked, his face working up a nice purple color. "What'd
you call me, Fatso?"

"I called you a damn midget, and if you don't like it, I dare you take
a poke at me!" said the Commissioner, and coming around his desk he
thrust his jaw out toward Charlie Jingle's cocked fists.

Jingle drew his fist back and stopped. Slowly he dropped the cocked
hand by his side.

"Oh, no! Oh, no you don't! You'd just love me to do it, wouldn't you?
A half-hour later I'd lose my license for conduct unbecoming a fight
trainer."

The Commissioner straightened up slowly, glaring out from under thick
grey eyebrows at Charlie Jingle's face.

"You think I'd pull _that_?"

"Goddam right you'd pull it! For all I know, you may even be working
for Pugs, Inc."

Fight Commissioner Jergen rocked back on his heels as if he had just
taken a blow between the eyes. He sank slowly into his chair, staring
in stillborn amazement at Charlie Jingle.

"Wait a minute, Charlie. You mean to say--Listen, boy, what's happening
to you? You know better than to say something like that to me!"

Charlie Jingle suddenly felt a hollowness in his stomach.

"I'm sorry, Jergen. I don't know what's the matter with me. This
thing's got me sore. They got me goin', and there's nothin' I can do
about it. I called the press. I told them that Pugs, Inc. and Tanker
Bell had come to an agreement. I even quoted a fight date. I look in
the papers the next day. Nothing! They got me sewed up tight. I come
here as a last resort.... I'm sorry I shot off my mouth!"

Charlie Jingle turned and started out.

"Now wait a minute, Charlie...." Charlie Jingle turned. "You see, I
know all about these kinds of deals in the game. Have known about them
for years. But they keep me shut out because I can't prove anything.
If you go to court as a witness, Pugs, Inc. will have fifteen other
witnesses. They'll even have a taped recording of your conversation
with them, which they juggle and splice to fit their purposes. You'll
hear things coming off a tape which you damn well know you didn't say
or mean. But you'll have to admit it's your voice; you were there, the
other guys in the room were there--and they got you nailed. See what I
mean? They're big business. They got it sewed."

"You mean there's nothing to do?"

"I mean there are ways. All you've got to do is sneak yourself into the
public eye. Once that happens, the public asks questions. What happened
to Tanker Bell? Why isn't he fighting the Champ? Know what I mean?"

"Don't you think they're askin' questions now?"

"Sure. But they ain't doin' it en masse. See?"

"Yeah," said Charlie Jingle softly. "Yeah. What I gotta do is hit Pugs,
Inc. where they ain't got control of the situation. Where they don't
have their stooges workin' to keep things quiet."

"Now you've got it," said the Commissioner, grinning.

"Okay. See you around," said Charlie, and started out.

"Take care," warned the Commissioner. But by that time Charlie Jingle
was on his way.

       *       *       *       *       *

At one o'clock of that afternoon, Charlie Jingle boarded a
coast-to-coast rocket. Fifty-five minutes later, at ten fifty-five
A.M. West Coast Time, Charlie Jingle set foot on the pavement of Los
Angeles' Municipal Rocket-Port, hopped a cab, and got out on the lot of
Galaxy Films. His business there took him two hours and twelve minutes,
by which time he hopped another cab, was born back to the Rocket-Port,
and bought a return ticket on the eastbound Rocket, scheduled for
takeoff at five P.M.

Charlie found a few hours on his hands. He chose to divert himself
at the Jet-Car Races in Culver City. He dropped forty dollars on
the first two races, and had just bought another ticket when, as he
walked away from the betting window, he saw a familiar profile marking
possibilities on a racing sheet with a well-chewed pencil. He nudged up
to Rabbit Markey, and in a half-whisper, asked:

"Got anything hot today, Jack?"

Rabbit Markey looked up with an annoyed frown, blinked, and when
Charlie Jingle's face registered, laughed.

"'Lo, Charlie? How's things out on the Coast?"

"Things," said Charlie, shaking his hand, "are lousy. But they'll get
better real fast. How about you, Rabbit? Out of the fights for good?"

Rabbit Markey sighed slow and long, nodding his head.

"I dumped my whole stable, Charlie, and when I come out here, I figured
Jet-Car racing was a clean way to make a buck. So I bought me a Jet
outfit. But it's the same tie-up as the fights was."

"I can imagine," said Charlie Jingle.

"No you can't, neither. For instance, you know who Jet-Cars
Incorporated happens to be an affiliate of?"

"Wait! Don't tell me. Lemme guess." Charlie shut his eyes. "Pugs, Inc.?"

"Bingo," said Rabbit Markey dispiritedly. "You know who makes the
drivers for the Jet-Cars?"

"Wait! Don't tell me!... Pugs, Inc.?"

"Bingo," said Rabbit Markey sadly, and Charlie laughed.

"That's the way the bugle blows, eh, Rabbit?"

"You know who's got the Commissioner of Jet-Car Races bought out?" went
on Rabbit Markey.

"Wait! Don't tell--How do you know that, Rabbit?"

"Whatsa difference. I know. For sure! I happened to find out. Just like
the old Fights Racket, eh, Charlie?"

"Yeah," said Charlie Jingle nervously. "Except that nobody's got Jergen
bought out."

"Hunh?" exclaimed Rabbit Markey.

"What I said--nobody's got--"

"I heard ya, Charlie. I heard ya the first time. You mean you never
heard about Jergen?"

"Heard? Heard what?"

"Boyo boyo boy! Buddy, you are in the middle of the neatest fix in
history. You mean to say you don't know what's happening?"

"Fix? What kinda fix, Rabbit?... Are you kidding? I can't even get my
boy a fight, and you're talking fix!"

"Aw Boyy! Awww Boyyyy are you a dummy! Lissen! Whatta you doin' out
here onna Coast?"

"Doin'? I'm tryin' to set it up so I can get Tanker a fight, that's
what I'm doin'!"

"You worked out a deal with some film company, huh?"

"That's right. Why?"

Rabbit Markey shot a glance to the right of him and one to the left,
hunched his shoulders, pulled his trousers up, took Charlie by the
lapel, and drew him close to a post. The buzzer sounded outside to
announce that the race was within one minute of starting time.

"Charlie, you're about to be had. Now you're playin' it the way you was
supposed to in the beginning. You was supposed to play ball with the
Hollywood boys to begin with. Now you done it. Now the fix is in!"

"How the the hell can there be a goddam FIX?" screeched Charlie
Jingle. "Tanker's level. Are you kiddin'?"

"Sure! Tanker's level! But how about the Contender? How about
Hammerhead Johnny? How about Steamroller Jones?"

"You're crazy!" shouted Charlie Jingle. "It can't be! How the hell
would _you_ know?"

"You wanna know how I know? My daughter Marie--you remember her, she
was a kid when you seen her--she's a secretary to Mike Bretz, the East
Coast Assistant Vice of Pugs, Inc.... She's got the whole map out,
from the word go. Pugs, Inc. is puttin' things in your way so that
everybody thinks you got a real thing in the Tank. They're helpin' you
get a build-up, you see, as if they wanted to freeze you out. When you
finally break through the freeze-out one way or the other, they're
gonna have one hellofa drawing-card! Get it now, Charlie?"

Charlie Jingle walked away from Rabbit Markey, went some twenty paces,
kicked a dent in a refuse-chute, and walked back.

"I don't believe it!" whispered Charlie Jingle hoarsely. "I don't
believe it!"

The bugle blew outside. Rabbit Markey looked at Charlie, looked at his
ticket, and started toward the race-track.

Charlie Jingle caught his arm.

"Wait a minute, Rabbit."

Rabbit Markey shook his head.

"I already said enough to float me in blood, Charlie. Now lemme go and
watch the bloody no-good fixed races."

"No, Rabbit. Tell me more. Tell me who else is swingin' this deal?"

"Don't you know?"

"Harry Belok?"

Rabbit Markey nodded.

"Jergen?" asked Charlie Jingle with bated breath.

Rabbit Markey nodded his head.

"How they do it? Tinker with the Fighters?"

"You ever see Hammerhead get knocked off his feet?"

"I don't get it--they lemme buy my own way into the news, is that it?
I think I'm perfectly legitimate. So does everybody else in the game.
What then?"

"Then a story breaks someplace about the way Pugs, Inc. tried not to
give you a fight. Everything looks like Pugs, Inc. is scared stiff of
you because you can ruin them. Big build-up. Even Jergen goes to bat,
confesses he tried to help you get the fight. Everybody's sore as hell
at Pugs, Inc. They force a fight, Tanker goes in--and gets slaughtered.
See?"

Charlie Jingle felt his guts deflate in a rush.

"Yeah," he said, dead-toned. "I see."

"What you gonna do?"

"I dunno. I got it set up with Galaxy Films to be waitin' in New York
Rocket-Port with cameras. Couple of friends of mine are gonna fake a
shootin' with me when I get there. Guess I've got no choice. I'll have
to go through with it now."

"Okay now," said Rabbit Markey. "Now lemme go and get ulcers over the
cars." He gave Charlie his hand and they shook slowly.

"Take care, kid--and thanks."

"Nahhh! Forget it! Forget you even saw me here! But don't forget what
I told you. Harry Belok's got friends in LA, too. I got racing-ulcers,
but I don't mind bein' alive with them. You get me?"

Charlie Jingle nodded again, and Rabbit Markey walked out into the roar
of the Jet-Races. Charlie Jingle looked down at the ticket in his hand,
ripped it in two, and let the pieces flutter to the floor.

Outside, he hailed a cab.

To board the Eastbound Rocket would have been to play into the very
hands of his enemies. And he needed time to think--to figure his way
out of the fix that had been planned for him. Perhaps by avoiding the
Rocket trip, he would avoid the pre-planned shooting, the filming of
which was also pre-set, and so avoid the press, and whatever consequent
notoriety would follow the whole affair at the Rocket-Port.

So he hired a car and started to drive East.

       *       *       *       *       *

There arose a great hue and cry at the disappearance of Charles Jingle,
who had been a registered, scheduled passenger on the Eastbound Rocket.
What had happened to him? What mystery cloaked his disappearance?
Galaxy Films made it known that Charles Jingle suspected an attempt on
his life. Why? asked a conscientious columnist. Who might have reason
enough to threaten the life of a Robot-Trainer? Mischa Hannigan,
innocently and in a moment of anger at what he thought must be vengeful
murder, stated that attempts had been made to intimidate Charles Jingle
into selling out Tanker Bell. Who had done so? Mischa Hannigan would
not say, though hinting darkly that a "well-known fixer" was at the
bottom of it.

The Press probed deeper into the mystery. What about Charles Jingle's
property, Tanker Bell? Was it so valuable that the proprietor should
be murdered for not parting with it? If it was, why had there been no
offer of a match from the Champion?

It was then that some bright reporter conceived the idea of questioning
the Fight Commission as to its views on the shamefully clandestine
affair. What had it to say? Nothing, was the reply. The bright reporter
launched an attack on the Commission. The fight public wanted to know
what the Fight Commission thought its function was, if not to expose
underground tactics in the game?

Commissioner Jergen addressed the citizenry via television. He admitted
that Charles Jingle had been to see him. He admitted he was unable to
move due to a lack of tangible evidence. He would not name the parties
accused by Charles Jingle because there was no real evidence at this
date. He would further investigate the situation, using every resource
at his command.

When Charlie Jingle arrived in New York two days later the lid was off
the town. Everyone was fuming at what had been perpetrated against
him. Everyone understood why he had come into town unobtrusively.

What Charlie Jingle had sought to avoid had happened anyway. The play
was in motion. There was no stopping it.

He watched the day-to-day developments in a state of paralyzed horror.
It was a nightmare in which he was the principal, and yet, the
bystander, the spectator. He had no choice but to follow. Rabbit Markey
had shown him the truth, so that all things now had a double meaning, a
reality and an unreality, another dimension, another depth.

When the press came to question him, Charlie fought the only way
he knew. He denounced Pugs, Inc. as cheats, liars, and fixers. He
denounced Commissioner Jergen, Harry Belok, the press, the Hollywood
people, the prize-fight game, and the public in an attempt to break the
whole business wide open.

But everyone understood.

"Mister Jingle is justified in his bitterness," said a reporter.

"Of course Charlie's sore. He's got a right to be sore!" said
Commissioner Jergen.

"A horrible injustice. We were concerned over our reputation," said
Kort Gassel of Pugs, Inc.

"The guy deserves a break!" said the fight public.

And Hollywood said, "We don't understand what prompted this unwarranted
attack."

So there it was. Charlie Jingle spoke the truth, but nobody believed
him. Tanker Bell was granted a match. The fix was in.

As a last resort, Charlie Jingle refused to let the Tanker fight. An
uproar went up from the public. It was a matter of ethics. Tanker Bell
was now their champion. He was the embodiment of everyman against the
Organization, against injustice. Tanker Bell _must_ fight!

It was then that Charlie Jingle understood. This was not simply a
fight. This was part of a long-range plan to bring the public man
to heel. This was part of a scheme to break the mass-individual
spirit, because if Everyman stood with Tanker Bell as the champion
of independant justice, and Tanker Bell were beaten--so would the
public-independent spirit be.

But Charlie Jingle had his hands tied.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the day of the fight, Charlie Jingle corralled the Tanker in the
workshop and ordered the amazed Tanker to lie down on the work-bench
for a "tune up". The Tanker protested.

"You crazy, Charlie? Whuffor? I never felt so good in my life!"

"Don't gimme any arguments, Tank. Stretch out and shuddup."

"But Charlie...."

"Stretch out, for God's sake!"

"What you gonna do?"

"Re-vamp you. I'm gonna run the tapes on the bout with the Contender,
and stuff your memory banks with tapes on every fight was ever had with
a Pugs, Inc. product. Then I'm gonna run tapes on Hammerhead Johnny.
I'm gonna key up your reflex-pattern to the point where you'll be
operating so fast your joints are liable to break down in the ring."

Tanker stared at him, open-mouthed. "What for? Will you please tell me
that? _What for?_"

"After I've fed you the tapes on the Contender and Hammerhead, you'll
know, if those goddam memory-computers of yours ain't so rusty they can
still work."

"You tryin' to teach me somethin' I don't know?"

"That's right."

"Why can't you just tell me?"

"If you figure it out yourself, you won't like it any more than if I
told you; but you'll know it the hard way."

"What a hellofa way to teach me somethin'! Jazzin' me up! My
co-ordination is perfect, analysis-system is workin' like a voodoo
charm, and you wanna jazz me up! It's like committin' suicide!"

Something in the Tanker's face changed, quickly and suddenly, as if a
diamond-bright idea exploded inside his steel-plated head.

"Charlie?"

Charlie Jingle looked up from his assortment of tools. "What?"

"Is this a fix?"

Charlie Jingle looked at him, the flush of anger brightening his eyes.
"Is that a joke, Tanker?"

"No, Charlie. A question."

"Stretch out," said Charlie Jingle gruffly.

"Answer me first, Charlie. Is it?"

"Whatta you think?"

"I dunno," said the Tanker, stretching out slowly.

"You really wanna win that fight, kid?" asked Charlie Jingle, sad and
tender.

"You know I do!"

"Trust me then, hah?"

The Tanker laughed, stretching out on the bench.

The light glittered cold on the smooth worn steel of the tools in
Charlie Jingle's hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the first Mechanical Pugilist was made, the Fight Commission made
a number of demands. First, through each robot's sight-mechanism, it
was established that each machine should be equipped with cameras by
which they would record the activity of their opponent in the ring.
If a foul was committed which had escaped the judges, the proof
would thereby be recorded on the camera-tapes, which could easily be
confiscated by the Fight Commission.

Secondly, there was a co-ordination system in each machine which could
not be slackened without a noticeable difference in the conduct of
the fighter, thus acting as a safeguard against the Trainer-Owner's
voluntarily slowing their fighters down for illegal purposes. However,
there were ways to slow a pug down. There were circuit-shorting
devices, reflex-sabotaging devices, analysis-pattern disturbances,
muscle-flexibility tensions--all of which cut down the fighter's
efficiency to some degree. The trick, of course, was to do so without
exposure, since all fighters were examined moments before they entered
the ring, and were subject to further investigation if the Judges
deemed a fight suspiciously under expectation-level.

The machines then were constructed, so that, in essence, they were
totally 'honest', and every part in them was recorded in a master
plan, filed with the Fight Commission, so that nothing could be added,
and certainly, nothing be subtracted from them, since their balance
depended completely on very essential parts.

They were also constructed so that they had their weakness-points in
exactly the same places men had theirs. If a machine struck hard enough
and exactly enough on the point of its opponent's jaw, it would jar
wires and electrical contacts badly enough to stop its operational
function--thus the "knockout".

To all intents and purposes the fighting machine was constructed
as much along human lines as was possible, even to the point of
corruptibility. They all had a desire to be great fighting machines,
and to go down in the annals of fight history. They were, each and
every one, made for the purpose of practicing a deadly, brutal art by
which men could sublimate the brutality that nested like a sleeping
tiger in their own persons. Provision had even been made for the sight
of flowing blood. The tough rubber skin that made the robots appear
human contained the red oil that lubricated the steel "innards", and if
the rubber skin split the more the bloodthirsty members of the audience
were satisfied.

What Charlie Jingle did, when he operated on the Tanker, was what
might be called, in human terms, "over-conditioning" him. He tightened
and sped his reflexes, shortened the length of his wires so that
electrical responses had shorter distances to travel, sped up his
Analysis-Pattern, hyper-toned his muscle-flexibility, and generally
made him a nervous wreck.

Then, as a final touch, he ran the tapes he had promised to run,
striving to bring the truth to the Tanker.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How do you feel?" asked Charlie as he watched Tanker Bell sit up, his
face twitching.

"Like a damn screwball!" said the Tanker.

"Did you get the message?"

"Yeah. Hammerhead never fought like the way he fought me in his life!
Wha'd they do to him?"

"Fixed him," said Charlie Jingle soberly.

"The Contender too?"

"Well you saw the tapes. They're all stuck away in that memory bank of
yours. Whatta you think?"

Tanker nodded, his head jerking up and down uncontrollably.

"Fixed him too. But I don't get the picture yet. Do you, Charlie?"

"Sure, I get it. The night I called the Arena to match you against
the Contender because Kid Congo got squashed in that accident, they
had a fix workin' between them. Kid Congo was supposed to upset the
Contender, see? But they must've both been fixed a little to fool the
Judges. So there's this accident, see? This throws the whole plan into
a panic--Congo's out, it's too late to un-fix the Contender. If the
Auditorium puts in a fighter who's strictly legitimate, everybody will
know it was a fixed. I call. They figured I had a Tank, maybe you'd
look pretty bad in there, and nobody would know the difference. Okay,
what happens? You nail the Contender, because, after all, you ain't
that bad--does it figure?"

"Boy! Does it!" said the Tanker, his head jerking. "Why can't you go to
the authorities, Charlie?"

"Because this fix is piled a mile high, Tanker, in all directions."

"Whadda you mean?"

"I mean I can't go to the Commission."

"What we gonna do? Just get belted around?"

"We got no choice," said Charlie Jingle with a shrug.

"The hell we ain't! If you think I'm gonna go into a ring and get
mauled, you're off your rocker!"

"We can't call the bout off," said Charlie Jingle dejectedly.

"Well who said anything about callin' it off?" shouted Tanker.

"I did the best I could! I tuned you up. I timed you. I jazzed you up
good--"

"But you _still_ don't think we can beat that Iron-Man Pugg!"

"That's right."

"So whattam I supposed to do when I go inter the ring tonight? Throw
down my hands and give it up?"

"You do what I did. Do your best."

"Alla while knowin' I don't stand a chance?"

"If I did it, you can do it."

"You know what you don't have, Charlie? You don't have faith!"

Charlie Jingle snorted in disgust.

"Who hatched you? Some preacher?"

"No, no, that's the truth, and you know it!"

"The truth," roared Charlie Jingle in a white rage, "The truth is that
everything's a lie! The truth is that everything's fixed from the word
go, from the bottom up and the top down. That's the goddam truth for
you!"

Tanker shook his head stubbornly.

"Boy, you sure are singin' a different song, all of a sudden. I dunno
what the hell happened to you, but you don't even sound like yourself!"

"Okay! Okay! Wait and see when they klobber you with it tonight, Tank,
my boy! Wait and see when it hits you square between the eyes."

The Tanker leaped up from the bench, jerking his fists in the air
uncontrollably.

"I'll murder him!"

"No you won't. Listen, I been fighting against fixes and fixers all my
life, Tanker. I never believed, and I never wanted to believe, that
they had it sewed away, that the big operators had us tucked away into
their pockets. Now I'm convinced! They sold me their dirty bill of
goods. I'm sewed in with the rest of them."

The Tanker shook his fist under Charlie Jingle's face. Oil had
drained from his system up into his face and head, lubricating his
head-mechanisms as protection from strain, as his head-parts were being
overworked. His "skin" looked blotchy.

"Charlie! After this is over, I want quits with you! You hear me? I
want quits!"

"Suits me fine," said Charlie Jingle.

"I'll bet--" began Tanker Bell, "--I'll bet you ain't even gonna bet on
me! Are you?"

"Sure! I'm gonna bet a thousand on you in the open market. Then what
I'm gonna do is let Hannigan bet five thousand for me on the sly on the
Champ. That way, at least I'll come out with somethin'."

"Even Belok's better than you! At least he's got guts enough to fix
fights. You ain't even got guts enough to fight one!"

Charlie Jingle walked to the door.

"You better rest up," he said, and swung the door open.

"Don't worry about me," said the Tanker. "I can take care of myself!"

Charlie Jingle looked at him a moment, a cloud of inexpressible
something in his eyes.

"See you later," he said quietly, and shut the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charlie Jingle strode, shoulder to shoulder with Tanker Bell, down the
long cluttered corridor of Golum Auditorium toward the roped ring.
There swelled, to either side of them, the surging roar of the crowd,
and it seemed to Charlie that the sound lifted the bitterness of his
expression from his face and floated it forcibly toward the rafters
overhead, for all to see, and to know that Charlie Jingle had given up
the good fight, Charlie Jingle was tired, had been had, was through,
inside and out. The fix was in. There was no way to stop it. That was
the way the bugle blew.

They climbed into the ropes and the roar of the crowd boomed and grew,
electric with the mood and feel of battle. Swiftly Charlie disrobed the
Tank, sat him on a stool, and looked over at the Champion's corner.
Iron-Man Pugg was already seated. On his face, as on Tanker's, there
was the brooding look of combat, of dead-sure certainty that he, and
he alone would win. And Charlie felt a jolt of sick depression in his
stomach, because he knew it was true.

The robot-referee came into the ring, and the crowd immediately hushed.
A dime-sized microphone on an almost invisible wire dropped down
from the batteries of overhead lights (this was more in the line of
tradition than need, since the robot-referee had a built-in mike of
his own), and the referee held up his hands for complete silence. The
crowd shushed itself to a murmer, and the referee went through his
introductory piece. After each fighter had received the crowd's roar of
approbation, the referee signalled for them to come to the center.

They went back to their corners. Charlie shook the robe from the
Tanker's back as a hum of excitement charged through the crowd. The
buzzer sounded and the fighters rose, ready. Charlie stepped through
the ropes, slapped Tanker on his back.

"Do your best, Tank."

The Tanker looked at him, face grim and solitary, shut away from
Charlie.

"My best ain't enough, Charlie. I'll do more than my best."

Charlie Jingle was about to say something else when the bell banged
away. He scooped the stool out of the ring and watched the Tanker
shuffle into center to meet the Champion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thirty rounds of fighting is tough work. Even for machines. Thirty
rounds of fighting, at five minutes per round, is one hundred and fifty
minutes, two and a half hours, of solid, shattering labor. A machine
overheats the way a man does under constant stress. It's joints expand,
its lubricant thins, things begin to stick, friction wears parts.
While a fight-machine's body works against time, its opponent pounds
it, jars it, jolts it. Wires loosen. Gears slip. Tubes shatter. The
machine slows, becomes gawky. Its timing is a split second off. Its
flexibility, its speed, are worn down.

When its pattern-analysis system becomes damaged, it cannot decipher
the feints, the systems and combinations of its opponents' strategy.
An eye is shattered, and the Trainer replaces it, since he carries a
spare pair. The same one is smashed again, and he cannot replace it,
because the Commission only allows a single replacement during a
fight. Its "skin" is split and the colored oil flows, the life-blood of
the machine. The Trainer is allowed one vulcanizing skin repair job per
bout. If it happens again, the fighter must go on, fighting against the
time when the loss of oil will endanger his operating efficiency.

Sometimes the machines strike each other with such deadly impact, they
dent the inner frame-work of the body, putting strains on a section
of wiring or electrical tubing. Then the damaged machine must fight
defensively to protect its weakened section. The offender will work out
elaborate punch-patterns to trick the defender into somehow thinking
he understands the aim of each pattern of punches and where the final
concentration will be. And suddenly, with uncanny craftiness, the
offender switches its attack to an unexpected area.

This is the function of the pattern-analysis system in each fighter.
To map, plan, digest the opponent's habits of fighting, then compute
them, set up a given system of punches itself which will clutter the
opponent's memory banks, and then radically change the mode of attack
and system of fighting. The process is mathematically complex. It is
the process of the human brain operating at high speed.

The first fifteen rounds of fighting are generally devoted toward
"faking" patterns. Each fighter labors to out-fox the other. In a
sense, the first fifteen rounds of fighting are preliminary. They give
the fight fans an opportunity to warm up to what is coming. Then it
begins. The lightning-fast pace shifts, becomes slower. The fighters
seem to be gliding through water. Then one unleashes an attack, sets an
impossibly fast pace. The game has started....

       *       *       *       *       *

Charlie Jingle gripped the edge of the ring hard, digging his hands
into the canvas, straining and twisting in tortured anguish with every
slashing blow that struck the Tanker. He watched the two fighters
weave, jerk, dart--bodies and arms flashing blurs, smashing blows one
to the other in sequences that were too complex for the eye to follow
in detail. He groaned, cursed, hoped, bellowed, roared and screamed
along with two thousand nine hundred and seventy four other human
beings in the arena.

The round was the twenty-sixth. This was the stretch. The final,
ineradicable stretch. The bell banged away and the fighters parted
under the glare of the lights, dancing away from each other to their
corners. Charlie shot the stool into the ring and went through the
ropes. Tanker dropped like a chunk of hot lead onto the stool.

"How do you feel, boy? How do you feel?" prompted Charlie, pumping the
cooling-fluid into Tanker's insides.

"Hot," rasped the Tanker. "Hot as hell."

"Want me to throw in the towel?" asked Charlie, working fast, working
the pump up and down quickly.

"No, goddamit. Wrap it around your eyes if you can't take it."

Charlie worked the body, stimulating the free flow of oil through the
system.

"How'm I doin'?" asked the Tanker grudgingly.

"Well at least you're still in there."

"By God, Charlie! Fighting Machines ain't supposed to be too emotional,
but if anybody gets me sorer than you do so help me, I'll murder him!"

Charlie Jingle worked the body fast, checked the heated joints for too
much strain.

"Favor the right. The elbow's gettin' creaky. And save the fight for
the Champ. You'll need it."

The buzzer sounded, Charlie shoved his tools through the ropes onto the
edge of the deck, climbed out, and holding onto the edge of the stool,
he said, "Watch his Three-Six combo. He's gonna angle for your jaw
pretty soon."

Tanker turned, looking down at him.

"You don't trust me at all, do you?"

The bell banged and quickly Tanker was on his feet, moving in his
curious, side-long motion.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the end of the twenty-seventh, Tanker came back to his corner lame.
The Champ had dented his forehead.

"How is it?" asked Charlie Jingle.

"Fine," said Tanker thickly. "It's fine." There was a slur to his
voice, which tipped off what was beginning to happen. Tanker's
co-ordination system had been damaged.

"He's crackin' down, now. He's got all his power behind them punches.
You can see it when he pivots."

"Yeah? Well _I_ kin feel it when he punches," said the Tanker.

Charlie pumped him up with cooling fluid, worked his body. In the
pit of his stomach was a sickness, a feeling of helplessness because
Tanker's trouble was not where he could reach it, now. Now it was
inside.

"He's gonna knock your head off, this one, Tank. You got a dent in it."

"I know I got a goddam dent. You don't hafta tell me."

Charlie put his gear out of the ropes.

"I told you it was a fix. Don't blame me for nothin'."

"Yeah. You wash your hands of it. Just like that guy in the
whuddayacall...."

"Bible," said Charlie Jingle.

"Yeah," said Tanker. The bell sounded and he sprang to his feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the end of the twenty-eighth, Tanker was dragging his feet, hanging
on by a thread of will, except of course that there was no will
in a fighting machine except the mechanistic desire to be a great
fighting-machine.

"He'll nail you this one," said Charlie Jingle.

"Thass what you think," challenged Tanker.

"That's what I know. The fans are already going to the windows to
collect their bets."

"Yeah? They got another guess com--Why ain't you collectin'?"

"I gotta stick it out, you know that!"

"You mean to say you really bet on Iron Man?"

"Sure," said Charlie Jingle, pulling a ticket out of his shirt pocket.
"See?"

Tanker bent close, scrutinizing the ticket. He looked up into Charlie's
face, his own blotchy with color.

"Five thousand dollars you bet on that bum?"

Charlie Jingle laughed.

"He don't look like no bum from where I am."

The buzzer sounded, drowning out the string of curses the Tanker loosed
at him. Charlie calmly shoved his equipment out of the ring.

"Make it look good right to the end, you hear?"

The bell banged. Tanker Bell got up slowly, moving in a clumsy waddling
gait toward the Champion, arms hanging like stiffened lead weights by
his sides, head bulled forward, shoulders hunched. He did not spring,
did not dance. He shuffled forward, shoulders rocking from side to side.

Iron-Man Pugg saw the stance of the beaten fighting-machine. He knew
the dead-locked expression in the face, knew the shuffling, springless
walk that indicated that the opponent was cold, was dead on his feet,
jammed away inside, locked and frozen. But there was always the
suspicion of trickery in him when he saw it.

He danced in lightly, speared the Tanker's head with a long series of
jabs, chopped away at his mid-section, and then, as if he himself were
absolutely cocksure, lowered his guard just a fraction of an inch out
of the Tanker's reach. Nothing happened. The Tanker moved toward him,
dead on his feet, arms limp. The Champion had to blast him back with a
murderous right to prevent a head-on, chest-on collision. The Tanker
staggered back, wobbled, his knees threatened to unflex and buckle,
then the built-in instinct to go on picked him up, and he straightened.

Iron Man could hear, behind and around him, the swelling roar of the
crowd. He knew it was for him. He had won. A hard, good fight. He had
won. It remained now for him to put the trimmings on the package.
Artfully he flirted in and around the Tanker, jabbing him lightly,
ripping powerful right-hand shots to his head, toying with him. The
crowd was roaring for blood. They wanted the finish. The Champion moved
forward, wound up. He started his famous knockout sequence of punches,
landing the first and second carefully, playing to his audience so that
they could see what was happening and appreciate from the beginning
what was about to happen. The Champion was enjoying himself. He worked
with flash and flourish, and the crowd began to love it.

Then Tanker Bell came alive. The Champion was first to see the
expression of his face, and a split-second before it happened, he
knew he had been tricked. He would forever remember that expression.
It was almost human. It was an expression of hatred. Of murderous,
long-controlled rage, diabolical and lethal.

Tanker Bell ripped a blow to his jaw so well-set, so precise, so
accurate, that when the Champion's head snapped back, the cable at the
back of his neck broke. The Champion fell over on his back, striking
the deck like fallen thunder. The Champion was not only 'out'--he was
'dead'.

There was a great, still silence in the arena as Tanker Bell strode
back to his corner. It was as if the air, and sound, and people had
been frozen. The Referee came to his senses first, stood over Iron-Man,
and counted, with long strokes of the arm. At the last stroke, chaos
broke loose. Fans and officials swarmed into the ring. The spectators
roared. But Tanker Bell had eyes for one single human being in that
arena. Charlie Jingle.

When he turned, Tanker saw Charlie Jingle doubled over the ropes,
laughing.

A reporter pulled Tanker to the middle of the ring before he could get
to Charlie. While they quizzed him and prodded him, Charlie Jingle
remained doubled over the ropes in a violent fit of hysteria.

Finally they drew Charlie Jingle into the circle at ring-center. Had he
had any doubts that Tanker would win?

"Never!"

Did he know that Tanker was faking toward the last? Certainly, came the
laughing reply.

How much money had he bet on his fighter?

Ten thousand dollars, came the uproarious reply, and Tanker Bell
bellowed, "He's a liar! He never bet a thing!"

The Press was astonished.

The Officials perked up their suspicious noses.

What did Tanker Bell mean?

"Ask him!" accused the glaring Tanker.

Did Charlie Jingle have the bet ticket with him? After all, Mister
Jingle--news.

Charlie Jingle, laughing, with a flourish, produced a ticket from his
shirt pocket.

Tanker Bell stared at it, goggle-eyed.

What would Charlie Jingle do with the money from the proceeds?

"Ruin Pugs, Inc.," said Charlie Jingle. "Me and a California Rabbit are
goin' into business together. Ruinin' Pugs, Inc."

"Psychology," growled the Tanker. "The bum used his goddam psychology
on me."

What was Tanker Bell referring to?

"Leave him alone," said Charlie Jingle, putting his arm around Tanker's
shoulders. "Can't you see he's punch-happy?"





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